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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-06-2007, 04:04 AM Thread Starter
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In all my years of modifying cars, one topic seems to come up fairly regularly. That topic is how to go about modifying your car on a budget. First you have to realize that motorsports are easily one of the most expensive hobbies you can undertake. It's up there with owning a nice boat. Everybody loves fast cars. Everybody loves a nice boat. Yet not many people own either one. The prime reason being money.

So here are some basic tips I'd like to pass on...

1. Do Your Own Work. Whenever possible, do your own labor. Labor costs can break any budget. With a basic set of hand tools and a shop manual, you'd be surprised at what can be accomplished. Even if you are a complete newbie to working on cars, you probably know a friend or coworker who'd be
willing to lend a hand. And the 12 pack your buddy charges is far cheaper than the going hourly rate for shop labor ($50-$150/hr). If you don't know anybody, try the forums. I have lent people assistance in the past, and have had that assistance returned. You make friends, you get the work done, you save money. A tough formula to beat.


2. Buy Used Parts When You Can.
Many budget minded modders head straight for the discount and eBay parts. All in the name of trying to save a few bucks. They usually are quick to say things like "It's just as good as ____" or "You're only buying a name anyway". Which, in some cases may be true, but realistically, quality name-brand parts can be had used for similar prices (or lower) to brand new knock off parts. Things like intakes, exhausts, wheels... these are low wear items, there's no reason not to pick these up used when you can. Trust me, once it's on the car nobody will know the difference. And let's not kid, you know you really want the good stuff.

3. Make a Wish List. Make a list of all the parts you want to have on your car. Then add to that list acceptable alternatives. For example, let's say you really want the Nismo intake, but would be willing to go with and Injen. So you write them down, along with what the MSRP is and the lowest retail price you can find it for. Write down every item and its price that you are interested in. Hopefully you've done this on your computer, so you can update it. OK, so now you print out a copy that you keep in your glove box, and keep the other copy next to your computer. What this does is allow you to spot a deal should it come out of the blue. It's hard to keep all the prices in your head, and often times we can walk on a great deal, or get suckered by a deal that we thought was sweet at the time. Scour the net, and your local papers daily looking for your parts. You can find a lot if you're patient.

4. Spend Your Money Once. This is an old proverb, but so very true. When you buy cheap crap, it often lets you down. So you're left with buying another one. In the end you spent more money than just buying quality in the first place. Also don't buy things "to tide you over until I get...". I've met too many people rolling around on cheap rims saying "I just put these on until I can save up for my Volks." This is a dumb move. It's obvious, but it can bite us all. Just set your goal and work toward it. Don't allow instant gratification to sidetrack you.

5. Don't Slack on Routine Maintenance. As strange as it may sound, we as car freaks can often put off routine maintenance in the quest for power. We hear an odd squeak, and know deep down we should fix it... but your soooo close to having enough money for that sweet exhaust, and you promise yourself that you'll look into it just as soon as you get that exhaust. Simply put, cars don't heal. Anything that is wrong will simply get worse, cost you even more money to fix, and set you further back in your goals.

6. Copy Cat. To be a trend setter or stretch the performance envelope costs money. A tuning shop may build and rebuild a setup a half dozen times to get the right combo. You really can't afford to swap out 3-4 different sets of headers. Nor can you afford the trial-and-error experimentation that is often required. But you can profit from the work of others by duplicating a successful build. In the quest of trying to be "unique" or have "the first ____ in the States" the import crowd has lost sight of the ultimate goal, which is to improve the performance of your car. There is no shame in copying success.

7. Don't Buy Cheap Tools.
As your skill increases you'll be doing a lot more of your own work. For that you will need tools. Don't buy garbage Kmart sets where you get 11 billion pieces for $11.99. These are junk. If you buy good tools they will last forever. You don't have to break the bank, just get decent stuff. The words "Made in the USA" and "Forged" are a must. Powder cast Taiwanese stuff is just waiting to break. For the garage amateur it's hard to beat Craftsman. It has a lifetime warranty and can be found used and on sale quite regularly. If you can't afford a set, you should get a good ratchet and some sockets at a minimum, fill in the rest as you can. This may sound harsh, but don't loan out your tools. A lot of you out there know what I mean, those that don't will find out.

8. With Extreme Power, Comes an Extreme Budget. If you have dreams of building a pavement chewing 1,500 HP beast. Then just forget about doing it on the cheap. End of discussion. There's an old (and wise) saying in the car world "Fast, Cheap or Reliable. Pick any 2."

Feel free to add your input and any tips you have picked up along the way.

Good Luck
Ronin Z


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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-06-2007, 04:31 AM
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Save up to buy what you want.Credit card interest,only costs you more money.

Craftsman tools are,No.1.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-06-2007, 04:36 AM Thread Starter
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Save up to buy what you want.Credit card interest,only costs you more money.
That's a great one Cliff! I'll add that to the final list.

-RZ



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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-06-2007, 10:09 AM
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Nice writeup! I think as long as that list is short, it's easier to remember and follow. I already know that number 8 doesn't apply to me. I know my budget, and I can't justify throwing in $10k or more into mods for an already well built sportscar. But that's me.

Now if only mod parties would catch on, that would be a great way to network and save some money.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-06-2007, 04:53 PM
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Nice writeup Ronin! Everything there makes great sense, it should help a lot of people. One thing I'd like to add, and something I wish I did before I started with my car was to have a goal. Don't just mod for the sake of modding, or you will just spend a ton of cash and not really have anything different than you started out with.

For example, decide what you want your car to do. If you're into autocross, take your car to a track totally stock. Get driving lessons. THEN decide you need x suspension componants or y wheels, or z sway bars. Don't just add stuff cause "its like, totally better than stock". You didn't buy a civic, that sort of logic doesn't apply here. Resist the urge to just mod for the hell of it!

Again, great advice. Another good addition to the forums, thanks!
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-20-2007, 08:59 PM
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Nice writeup! I think as long as that list is short, it's easier to remember and follow. I already know that number 8 doesn't apply to me. I know my budget, and I can't justify throwing in $10k or more into mods for an already well built sportscar. But that's me.

Now if only mod parties would catch on, that would be a great way to network and save some money.

LOL I could see this like a tupperware or passion party. Lay all the parts out on table draped in a pretty fabric. Chardonney for eveyone.

Seriously though good idea but with my problem with even contimplating moding is I dont trust anyone. I know I dont know enough to not get screwed. I know what I want but I'm still learning. I think this weekend my husband is going to show me how to install the futomoto value. I guess its a start. I dont make enough money to mod on my own. But I'm willing to learn its just frustrating trying to get over the hump of the learning curve. I cannot even decide if its worth it to buy the NISMO catback
 
post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-20-2007, 09:28 PM
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7. Don't Buy Cheap Tools.[/b] As your skill increases you'll be doing a lot more of your own work. For that you will need tools. Don't buy garbage Kmart sets where you get 11 billion pieces for $11.99. These are junk. If you buy good tools they will last forever. You don't have to break the bank, just get decent stuff. The words "Made in the USA" and "Forged" are a must. Powder cast Taiwanese stuff is just waiting to break. For the garage amateur it's hard to beat Craftsman. It has a lifetime warranty and can be found used and on sale quite regularly. If you can't afford a set, you should get a good ratchet and some sockets at a minimum, fill in the rest as you can. This may sound harsh, but don't loan out your tools. A lot of you out there know what I mean, those that don't will find out.
+1. A hint a coworker gave me, search Ebay for Snap-On, Craftsman etc. All of their hand tools (not power) have life time warranties. If you can find broken tools dirt cheap, they're the same as new (or reconditioned) tools, they'll just take a trip to Sears/flagging down the Snap-On guy. Also, get a good set of tools, but not necessarily an over kill set. You may not need a whole ratchet set (60+ pieces). Most of an imported car can be taken apart with 2 or 3 sizes of socket. More is better, but only if you have all the basics first. I'd pick up ratchets, screwdrivers, open/boxed end wrenches, allen keys, a digital multimeter (or analog if you can read it), and a jack and jackstands at least. A compressor, impact wrench and grinder are also nice.

Also don't forget the beauty of custom stuff. I've seen simple things go for some crazy money. I8cCobra's catch can is the perfect example. Looking for a different look on the wheels? Powder coat them and maybe stripe them. Cooler plates are simple, find a piece of sheet steel/aluminum, mark out where cuts need to be, cut it with a Dremel, Die grinder, etc. Plus once it's done, it's your product, and something to be proud of (plus you can honestly say you have the only one).

~Pat

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-20-2007, 09:43 PM
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Hadn't seen this before. Great Thread. +1 on #5. Maintenance cannot be second fiddle to modifications and often times it ends up that way.

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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-05-2008, 02:15 AM
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man ronin! i agree with dan great thread! +1

and very helpful and useful

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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-12-2008, 02:58 PM
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another place to pick up good tools cheap, believe it or not, is your local pawn shop. i have seen fairly new, complete sets of craftsman wrenchs and socket sets much cheaper than buying new. just be extra careful if you're looking for/at electric or pneumatic tools, and always remember "buyer beware".

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